When the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship got to Aronimink last October, the most accomplished player on the LPGA Tour without a major championship win was Sei Young Kim who, at the time, had 10 victories. Kim fixed that with a five-stroke romp. Entering this week’s Women’s PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club, two of the best without a major have the last name Korda.
When Nelly, 22, won the Meijer Classic on Sunday it was career victory No. 5 while big sister Jessica, 28, has six titles. They, along with Minjee Lee of Australia, who has won five times, have the glossiest resumes among active Tour players without a major championship.
The question is: Will one of them pull a Kim and shed the double-edged title: “Best player without a major?”
Lee has never finished in the top 10 at the Women’s PGA, although she does have five top-10 finishes in 34 major starts. This year, she was T-25 at the ANA Inspiration and T-54 at the U.S. Women’s Open.
But it is the sibling rivalry that has everyone’s attention. The race is on to see which is first to join their father, Petr, who won the 1998 Australian Open men’s tennis singles title, as a major champion. The sisters better hurry. Little brother Seb, 20, won his first ATP singles tennis title earlier this year and may soon join the major conversation.
Jessica was T-4 in the 2018 Women’s PGA and has seven top-10s in majors. This year, she was T-36 in the ANA Inspiration and T-30 in the U.S. Women’s Open. Nelly missed the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open, but has been trending up in the majors. She was T-3 at the ANA in April and T-2 there last year. In 2019, she was T-3 in the Women’s PGA and T-9 in the AIG Women’s Open after finishing T-10 in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open.
Both Kordas arrived at Atlanta Athletic Club with high hopes, but with a firm grasp on the fact that a key to winning is managing expectations and not letting emotion rule the day.
“Stars align,” Jessica said Tuesday when asked the key to winning a major. “It's so hard to win out here. You look at it week to week, the scores are so low. The battles, there's battles, it's not like it's a clear win ever. You've got to make the key putts, and obviously a sprinkle of luck always helps.”
While Nelly, at No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings, is a lock for the U.S. Olympic team later this summer, No. 13 Jessica could solidify her spot in this, the last qualifying event. A country can send four to the Olympics if all are in the top-15 of the Rolex Rankings. Jessica is the fourth American, 0.30 points ahead of Ally Ewing, who is ranked No. 18.
“Honestly, what happens, happens,” said Jessica, who picked up win No. 6 in January at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. “It's out of my control. There's nothing I can do. With girls behind me, I'm just going to try to do me, and whatever happens at the end of the week happens.”
Nelly has been an ascending star ever since she and Jessica proved to be an unbeatable duo at the 2019 Solheim Cup, both going 3-0-1 at Gleneagles in Scotland. Nelly has won three times on the LPGA Tour since then and once on the LET.
“To be honest, I try to approach every tournament the same,” Nelly said Tuesday. She became the Tour’s only two-time winner of 2021 when she added the Meijer Classic to the Gainbridge Championship she won in February.
“A lot of people get wrapped up in its major week, and they put so much pressure and emphasis on it being major week instead of just enjoying the week,” Nelly said. “I missed the cut at the U.S. Open two years in a row now, and just trying to enjoy the moment and just to have fun and approach it like every other week, I think is a new mindset I'm going to try to rely on, I guess.”
The sisters have been extremely compelling this year. Not only have they both won, Nelly is first and Jessica is fifth in Race to the CME Globe Points, Solheim Cup points and Rolex Player of the Year points. Nelly is first and Jessica is third in scoring average.
And at 6,740 yards with four par-5 holes, Atlanta Athletic Club should fit both of their games. Jessica is No. 9 in driving distance at 275.4 yards while Nelly is No. 10 at 274.1 yards.
“I think it sets up pretty well,” said Nelly. “It's nice to hit driver pretty much off every tee. You have to kind of thread it between a couple of bunkers. You're going to have to hit it well off the tee placement-wise. Yeah, length plays a huge part.”
While others have placed the burden of expectation upon both Kordas, they are learning how to handle those demands.
“It's definitely something on my bucket list in the sense as a professional golfer, but it would be a lot of joy,” Nelly says about winning a major. “I feel like a lot of people get wrapped up into grinding so much that they lose a love for the game. My advice is to always have fun and just never take it so seriously.”
One thing is certain: If either Nelly or Jessica wins the KPMG Women’s PGA, both sisters will celebrate. And Dad too. For the Kordas, winning is a family affair.